It’s remarkable to think that we are already at the midpoint of 2020. Looking back to the start of the year, so much has changed with so little activity. We welcomed the New Year and the new decade with immense optimism. Miles away however, the distant threat of a virus impacting Wuhan seemed to be nothing more than a local problem.

And then its reality hit. As with all major events, I remember the very moment, less than 90 days later, when I heard that Italy was shutting its borders. A matter of days thereafter, the world was made motionless. The COVID-19 health crisis had an immediate disruptive impact on the way people, cities, and the world itself lived and moved.

An eerie reality: Streets, icons and bustling cities once filled with travelers and locals existing side by side came to an almost instantaneous halt.

Today, COVID-19 has become an active acronym in all aspects of our lives, having taken the world in its firm, fear-generating grasp. Lives, and those of loved ones, were directly at risk. And, as we were soon to find out, so too were our livelihoods.

Despite being asked to stay apart from the point of view of health and safety reasons, it became vital that new regulations and new protocols were defined and implemented to slow the spread of the virus, but equally begin to find how we could re-live life in the next normal. One where we needed to find the balance of being able to still stay close, whilst maintaining an appropriate distance.

Back then I read what Albert Einstein wrote, which soon became my guiding light, “It is in the crisis that the best of each of us comes to the fore, because without crisis every wind is a caress. To speak of crisis is to promote it, and to remain silent in the crisis is to exalt conformism. Instead, let us work hard. Let’s put an end once and for all to the only threatening crisis, which is the tragedy of not wanting to fight to overcome it.”

Now, as we rewind to the beginning of the year, whether we were ready to do so or not, governments forced us to switch off our office lights and switch on our computers at home, keeping them on often 24/7. WFH – ‘work from home’ – a new COVID-19-time acronym became a part of our lives. WFH quickly became business as unusual, enabling us to find an unusual comfort in a discomfort zone.

We’ve become used to seeing one another on a screen. The most common new work phrase now being, “you’re on mute” or “sorry, I was on mute”. We’ve become used to breaking boundaries that we had in our lives before, our personal spaces now shared spaces for all to see. Our personal lives are now rippling into our professional lives, and the people around us at home have now become familiar names and faces for the people we’re engaging with around the world, through our screens, day after day.

Yet, as virtually connected as our lives are, this time has exposed how profoundly people of the world need to be connected in a way that is not just screen-visible, but allows us to reach out and touch, connecting as sensory humans.

So why am I reflecting on this now, while we are still navigating our way through the COVID-19 journey?

Simply this: as we all become very comfortable with the new remote routines that are still to last quite some time, it is important that we don’t lose the significance of the surrealness of this time. We must not allow 2020 to be simply a storyline in history, moving too quickly onto the next. Every good story has a lesson to be learned.

What we have seen and experienced in these past +/- 200 days is beyond fiction. It is beyond all modelling of medical and economic curves. We must make sure that we continue to learn the lessons that are important to keeping us human, to keeping us committed, to maintaining connections, and to being compassionate practitioners of one of the most important sectors in the entire world, Travel and Tourism.

In our industry, Travel & Tourism, we are seeing our sector – one that had been enjoying year on year growth of an average +5%, peeking in 2019 to represent 1 in 10 jobs worldwide and 10% of global GDP – being brought to an instant halt, with an almost instant +90% decline in international arrivals, and job losses of 1 million per day. One million lives and livelihoods, gone, daily. Taking into account the goods and services value chains that are mobilised by Travel & Tourism, suddenly across the globe, leaders, communities and national economies are again defining our sector as ‘essential’.

But it is more than the numbers. I believe, and have always believed, that Travel and Tourism is a genuine force for good. I believe that the power of the industry is not just the impact that it has on visitors. It is the impact generated upon the places visited, and on the lives of those visited.

Making a Difference; One of our biggest sources of pride is our support for locals across the world, like the Morillo Family in rural Seville. They feel the impact of our visits and we can’t wait to return to their beautiful hacienda and Olive Oil estate, Basilippo, as soon as we can.

Our focus within The Travel Corporation (TTC) is that we know that tourism generates cultural, economic and social value, but at this time it also depends on us. The industry professionals align ourselves with the needs of the travelling public and create, redefine and amend travel protocols to build confidence in the immense values of travel.

TTC has therefore been working hand in hand with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) to define the guidelines for Safe and Seamless Travel as well as also spearheading a complete review of the sanitation and hygiene measures around all our guests’ experiences and interactions while on their holidays and ensuring that these are dynamically adjusted, as authorities amend and update these requisites.

That said, we must also consider that, right now, in these times of not only COVID-19 concerns but also the raw, real, social issues that are inspiring people to take their beliefs to the streets, our fragile world is being rightfully challenged by the issues concerning diversity and equality.

It is therefore at this moment that I am reminded of the richness that travel has always offered the world: to see the world through new eyes. Eyes of understanding, eyes of empathy, eyes of appreciation and eyes of unity. That of essential connection creating strength and creating cohesion through learning.

However we look at one another, wherever we come from, it is history that sets the foundations of creating a new future. What has happened in the past we must learn from, using insight and understanding to shape the future, actively working together to create a world that is safer and stronger. We must work together to create a world defined by solidarity, sincerity, and appreciation – not separation.

Traveling has countless rewards and can be life changing in numerous incredible ways. As we open our doors, get out of own homes and enjoy the beauty of travel once again, despite the overhang of the virus, we will take a break from the pressures and routines of our current daily life. This will immediately help our well-being, our mindset, our relationships, and expand our understanding of life and humanity. As we see new places and experience new cultures, even if that be the surprise of what exists in our own backyards, we will be positively impacting the communities we travel to.

These are the values at the heart of TTC and our industry: understanding, appreciation, respect, humility and, critically, gratitude.

Gratitude’ is a video message recently conveyed by TTC’s Chairman, Stanley Tollman. He, along with his wife Bea, built TTC on the foundations laid by his father. Now, a century later, global travel opportunities abound for millions of people to enjoy across the world, both for those that are guests of our businesses and brands, and also those who work with and for our TTC businesses.

This time of global grounding and rebuilding has made vividly clear that as we prepare to go into the next new world that awaits us all, as our doors, borders and skies gradually reopen again, we must do so with respect and immense gratitude.

Rising up: As the dawn of a new era rises, so too does our love and appreciation for the power of travel, stronger than ever.

This generation-defining pandemic has changed our shared world. No one has been immune. Everyone has been vulnerable. This is our opportunity to step up as accountable individuals working together as a global community, understanding and caring for one another. Because unless we all win, we all lose.

As Travel & Tourism leaders, together we must unite in support of the future of travel, creating a new world, a next normal. Let us not waste this time. Our time of stillness is coming to an end, and the opportunity to create motion will be once more. So, now is the time to rethink, become re-inspired and embrace the discovery of this new world we all share.






A word that just a few short weeks ago, we would use as a synonym for ‘required’, ‘necessary’, ‘important’. But that was then, and this is now.

In the weeks since, this singular word has now taken on a whole new, critical, global significance. ‘Essential’ has become a term denoting ‘lifesaving’. It is a term that now reflects care and absolute priority. The word has now become a basis for protocols around the world connected to COVID-19 – the global Coronavirus pandemic that has proven itself merciless, ominous and invisible, yet with the ability to touch each and every one of us.

We have all seen its impact from different parts of the globe, from different parts of our lives, and from different points of view. We are also now entirely connected to one another by the same virus, even if we are having to stand 6ft apart. COVID-19 is a threat that is putting us all of us at risk not just in terms of our physical health, but also our financial and mental health.

It was not that long ago when all of this generation-defining drama began, that the word ‘essential’ initially came into our vocabulary in the context of the Coronavirus. Our first indication of something going wrong was less than 60 days ago, when news from China communicated the spread of a health crisis severe enough that it was literally grounding all travel during a period of mass human migration – Chinese New Year – when over 3 billion trips are estimated to take place as families reunite across the globe.

Come February, as the virus travelled west, rates of spread and concerns rose rapidly. People started to consider what was essential to have at home, especially if they were limited in mobility, and were having to keep fears of this mysterious yet aggressive virus at bay.

One question eclipsed all others: what am I going to need at home?

Suddenly store shelves became completely devoid of hand sanitizer, toilet rolls, paper towels and cleaning products that people believed were going to keep their homes safe. Sadly, this rush for all of these essential products created a retail craziness that resulted in hoarding and aggression, as people tried to get what they thought was necessary to keep themselves free from fear and contagion. In so doing, we actually started to do damage to our global community – its respect of, and responsibility towards, one another.

More rapidly than we can even grasp, soon the word ‘essential’ was imposed on our work, on products, and on services deemed cannot live without as, one by one, lockdowns and stay homes became not just a recommended way of dealing with the Coronavirus, but instead an ‘essential’ mandate. Countries from East to West, have now found themselves in a state of emergency. In Switzerland, my home, this “extraordinary situation” has created a complete state of confusion.

As a result, we are now seeing the astounding news that over 2.6 billion individuals are currently in different forms of lockdown around the world, confined to our homes. Now the word essential has taken on an even wider meeting. It has taken on a more humane meaning, and a more tangible identity.

What is deemed ‘essential’, and who?

The word ‘essential’ has now become a synonym of the word ‘hero’ – the people that so often were overlooked in our society, but who now play a critical role in keeping us strong and moving forward: the vital doctors, the nurses, the drivers, the store stockists and cashiers, and the people working each and every day to help us face the weeks of isolation ahead.

That is our outside world. And then there is our inside world.

As social-distancing and lockdowns now define the immediate future, what has also become essential are the small pleasures we each now recognise we formerly took for granted. The ability to reach out and hug someone we love, the ability to look someone eye as they are standing right beside us. The ability to go out, reach out to the world, to travel, to connect.

We are finding the word ‘essential’ is now reflecting what we also value deeply in our ability to simply move around our world, connect with the world, celebrate our being a valued part of the world. To travel.

For over a month now airlines have been grounding aircrafts, hotels have been turning the lights off as their doors close, and governments have been closing borders. Our world view has become severely curtailed as our passports are put away, our plans put off. Normal life is no more.

And we will never go back to ‘normal’. We will never go back to the way we were. There is no going back.

Instead, we must move forward, and in moving forward we must take this opportunity to look at what truly is ‘essential’ for our lives – to be in a position of wellbeing as individuals. But it no longer stops there. We also now recognise and actively demonstrate the community in which we live with the people right next door, and the global community around the world. Take the time to be grateful for the big things like our health, and the simple things, like the sun on our face. A definite positive to arise from this situation is that with the spread of Covid-19, it is proving that as a society, the commonalities that we share not just as people, but as countries, are far more powerful than what keeps us apart. We are inescapably interconnected, and the more we can come together to solve our problems, the better off we will all be.

To ensure a truly sustainable future – economically, socially, culturally, environmentally, and also spiritually – our sense of community is essential, online and on our doorstep.

In my own definition of ‘essential’, what I am finding as ‘essential’ is my need to continue to keep alive my relentless love of travel. The brands I run have always had, and will always have one sole purpose – to inspire and enable guests to connect to the joy of travel. Whilst I am saddened to see the ‘essential’ action of the worlds borders now being closed, I know it is not matter of ‘if’, but more so one of ‘when’, we will travel again. Giving our guests the opportunity to travel the world, to become stronger people, to become more sensitive people, to become smarter people, more connected and more compassionate. Our hearts and minds need to travel, not just our bodies.

But for now, to be able to travel the world tomorrow, we must stay home today.

That is ‘essential’ to ensure we are ready for our new tomorrow, stronger, smarter, and together.

COVID19 – Simple Strategies For Staying Strong


Every single day, everywhere we look, we are seeing increasing amounts of fear and fallout from what has become the dark horizon facing our world in 2020. The Novel Coronavirus, or more specifically COVID-19 has become a defining feature of the start of this new decade.

It has put a rapid halt on the years of sustained growth are now turning into warnings of recession. The momentum of the travel and tourism industry has turned it into a historic, single year collapse. It is defining the scale of the challenge we will need to face to bring the industry back to its vital position as the engine of global economic recovery.

What I find fascinating is the fact that, the news about COVID-19 is spreading around the world quicker than the virus itself, while travel and tourism is stopping. I have always focused on encouraging travellers to travel more. But just like stock markets, travellers don’t like uncertainty. With this environment of the unknown, what is growing is global awareness and focus on just how important the travel sector is to global growth, development, unity and opportunity:

  • how many billions of people would normally be traveling every single day,
  • how travel is needed to unlock opportunities and possibilities, both personally and professionally,
  • how hundreds of millions of people’s livelihoods rely on the industry, whether they are employed in hospitality, of locals and small businesses who rely on travel and tourism simply to meet the needs of their daily lives and those of their families,

and importantly,

  • how travel is central to global hope, possibility, unity and stability.

The reality, however, is that travel and tourism is becoming grounded across the globe. Airlines are reducing routes and frequencies, events are being cancelled, cruises are staying in port, hotels are shutting their doors, people are staying home.

While the pandemic we face is not fully understood – its sources, its spread, its severity – what we do know for certain is that fear is driving fear. Panic and prejudice are driving separation and insensitivity. This is exactly why we need to simply be smart about how we stay strong, how we stay calm. With an invisible crisis like a pandemic, we don’t know where it is, we don’t know where it will be next, and we don’t know when we’re at risk. Hence the elevated levels of fear. But we cannot allow fear to define our future ability to get through this crisis, and gain the lessons we all need to learn.

For this reason, I want to take this moment to encourage all of us to share a common interest, the fundamental of taking care of ourselves; making sure that in doing so we keep each other, and when we return, the travel and tourism industry, strong.

As hands have become a central theme of the virus, I’ve created a handful of simple strategies to stay safe during the COVID19 pandemic: 5 Cs.

Firstly, CAUTION: We know deep down where we’re not feeling well. We know when we’re near someone who is ill. We need to be cautious knowing that this pandemic is spreading, as I said earlier, the invisibly through particles and the fact that someone might not be showing the symptoms even though sadly they’re carrying the virus itself means that we need to exercise caution and make the decision to work from home, make a decision to not travel, make a decision to stand a little further back, not shake hands, not give the customary traditional kisses on the cheek, and just be careful not to touch ones’ face.

Which takes me to number two: CLEANLINESS: Cleanliness is vital, and as we have found out, simply washing your hands, washing them properly as is required for 20 seconds, rigorously scrubbing them will, play a critical part in making sure that we all stay safe.

Third, COMPASSION: We need to recognize that those around us who are suffering. They might be suffering from the virus’ impact on their physical health, they might be suffering from a loss of financial health even if their physical health is strong. We need to remember that nobody catches or spreads the virus with intent, and as humans, this is a time to unite and offer support. We’re all facing this together. It’s saddening to hear reports of racial attacks like Chinese stores and restaurants going out of business due to misinformation. Again, we should educate ourselves rather than seeking to find blame, exercise compassion and not judge people who have become victims to the illness, be they from Italy, from China, the USA or Canada, Singapore, wherever in the world this pandemic has reached.

Next, COMMUNICATION: We need to ensure that we communicate responsibly. Don’t listen to fearmongers on social media telling us what might happen. Instead, there is a high degree of information out there that is factual, that is informing – for me, the WHO is the best resource for status of the crisis, progress on its containment, and critical steps for protecting oneself:

However, here’s also a great degree of falsehoods and fear-generating fiction out there. An ‘infodemic’, as it’s being called by the United Nations, has begun as people are spreading information that is either false or it’s purposely put out there, especially through social media, to create fear. We need to exercise good judgment, recognising when information is helping people move forward versus when it is increasing fear and stopping them in their tracks.

Finally, CONFIDENCE: We need to have confidence. We will get through this. Our world is strong, our sector is resilient. Human beings ultimately stand together. We need to look to the future with confidence, and knowing that not only will we get through this, but we as a global community and we as a global travel and tourism industry will recover sooner.

Because that is what travel and tourism is all about. It’s about going out and discovering the world, meeting new people, going to new places, learning new life lessons, finding out how to appreciate difference. Interestingly, as we are finding with this pandemic, wherever we are in the world we are all the same, we are all vulnerable, we are all fearful, and yet we are all hopeful.

As I have been reminded, by one of the wisest individuals I know, “this too shall pass”. So, I share with you these 5 Cs – my simple strategies for bringing us together, staying strong – in hopes of us all coming through this time with renewed strength, renewed appreciation for the wonderment of our travels, and a renewed excitement to discover our World and venture out once more.

Top 10 Bucket List Destinations for 2020

Within our TTC family of 42 brands, we offer hundreds of ways to discover the world. Within my areas of responsibility at Trafalgar, there are nearly 40 choices alone. With so much to see and so much to do, the choice of discovery is limitless. At the start of each year as has become tradition, I look to see where I will travel in the months to come, seeking to add a few extra slices of inspiration in the process.

Here are my personal top 10 Travel Trips for 2020, and why…


In July of this year my wife and I will travel to Vietnam, a country I have yet to visit. It’s been on my travel list for years and with the new decade, I am determined to make it a definite. The country checks all the boxes that inspire my personal travels. In terms of its culture and history, Vietnam is a place where old and new live side by side. I grew up hearing stories of the country’s modern history, but Vietnam’s ancient history is still very much a part of its present, apparent in places like Hanoi, or Ho Chi Minh City. The people of Vietnam too, add to its charm. With welcoming smiles and an abundant desire to share their heritage and culture, I believe you’ll find a warm reception everywhere you go. Of course the natural beauty of the country also makes it appealing, with mountain ranges, rivers and lush forest all there to be enjoyed. And then finally you have the food, a major passion of mine. I love eating all around the world, not just for the flavour but also for the cultural immersion, so in Vietnam I’m excited to taste the steaming bowls of pho, fresh banh mi or summer spring rolls.


Visit the one of the magical Temples of Ho Chi Minh



From the written world of Shakespeare to the pageantry of the Royal Family, Britain is a country that is inimitable in style and tradition. So in this new decade and with the uncertainty of Brexit soon to be a thing of the past, 2020 is set to be a wonderful time to visit Britain. Rugged coastline, historic castles, renowned cathedrals, vibrant cities and charming rural villages are all on offer here, and come rain or shine you can always count on the Brits for a warming cup of tea and a friendly smile.


In 2019, I went back to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1997. With an open mind and a willingness to learn, what I found here was an extraordinary place of remarkable warmth and opportunity, and a chance to understand the region’s recent “Troubles” history and how this has impacted our contemporary society. I particularly enjoyed visiting the Ulster American Folklore Park, where three centuries of immigration from Ulster to the USA are depicted. I thought this coming together of history and nature was an inspired form of storytelling, and an experience I’m sure many of our guests will similarly appreciate.


Northern Ireland

Explore Northern Ireland’s culture, landscapes and history



I cannot quite put into words the love and admiration I have for Namibia. Vast and diverse, this is a country where much of the land is uninhabitable; an endless expanse of deserts and sand dunes. As well as peering into the depths of Africa’s largest canyon, exploring a petrified forest and heading out on safari, this trip visits the last semi nomadic tribe of Namibia, the OvaHimba tribe, offering an opportunity for cultural exchange and fascinating storytelling.

Namibia Sunset

Drift into an breathtaking African Sunset



Travel and Leisure listed Georgia as one of their top new destinations to visit in 2020, and it’s not hard to understand why. Both of these countries have been on our radar for a while, and this year we are one of the first company’s to offer trips to this unique and beautiful region. Offering an extraordinary collection of medieval monasteries and churches, dramatic mountain ranges and historic cities and towns, both Armenia and Georgia have plenty to offer for the discerning traveller seeking to venture off the well trodden path. As a company we are committed to making travel matter by helping smaller and lesser known destinations take their turn in the spotlight, a move that will in turn help to combat overtourism in the more traditionally popular destinations.



A country formerly dogged with a reputation for conflict, crime and drugs, Colombia has risen from the ashes to become a destination of choice for many travellers around the world. Drawn in by the sun drenched Caribbean coastline, vast and lush rainforests, strong coffee, the towering Andes mountain range and countless animal species (many of which are on the endangered list), Colombia can justifiably say it has a little something for everyone. Colombia Rediscovered is new for 2020 and features a number of exciting and unique experiences, my favourite of which takes places at Tayrona National Park, on the Caribbean coastline. Here, our guests will meet with Dr. Santiago Giraldo of the ProSierra Nevada Foundation, who was the recipient of a TreadRight Foundation grant for his incredible work with elusive indigenous tribes. Led by Dr Giraldo, our groups will meet and engage with local indigenes who work closely with Dr Giraldo, in an experience that is the first of its kind.


Get lost in Cartagena’s labyrinthine streets and admire the bright bougainvillea colours



Wild, rugged and beautiful, Tasmania is a unique gem at the bottom of the world and a place that should be on everyones travel wish list. It’s certainly on mine, and from this year it will also be on many of our Trafalgar guests as we launch our new Footsteps & Trails trip. One of the undisputed highlights of this trip is a visit to one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places in the world – the Bay of Fires. This experience includes the Wakalina walk; a two-day Aboriginal guided walk through the magnificent Bay of Fires landscape as well as the Mount William areas, the cultural homeland of the Palawa people. Bruny Island’s rugged coastline and the calming beauty of Wineglass Bay are other highlights on the agenda.


If you take a second to Google any of Utah’s national parks, you’ll understand why this experience is so deserving of a place on my top 10. Visiting the big 5 – Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park, plus other spectacles of nature like Lake Powell and Goblin Valley State Park, this trip is all about appreciating a region of the USA many never take the time to see. It gives our guests a chance to get active with much of the trip done on foot, where moderately strenuous hikes are rewarded with landscapes that wouldn’t feel out of place elsewhere in our solar system. Antelope Canyon is a particularly special place for me, where you can really feel the majestic power of nature.



The exquisite natural sandstone shapes that dot the landscape in Arches National Park



New for 2020, our Southwest Native Trails trip really is one of a kind. It’s an opportunity for honest and authentic cultural immersion, and is centred around learning, understanding, and the mutual benefit tourism can have on a community. Everybody knows and has perceptions of America, but this trip offers the opportunity to learn about the original forefathers of the country, diving in to their culture, language, stories and heritage. On the trip, our guests will meet and bond with members of the Navaho nation, the Anasazi, Hopi and the Puebloan people. They’ll hear ancestral stories, but also develop an understanding of how indigenous peoples in America continue to honour their heritage today, whilst being guided by tradition.


A timeless classic that never goes out of style, a trip to Egypt is a trip back in time to the Cradle of Civilisation. Walking in the footsteps of pharos is a guaranteed spine tingler, and that moment when you catch a glimpse of the Pyramids for the first time – it’s something I can’t quite put into words. Ancient temples, magnificent monuments, fascinating hieroglyphics, and carvings and paintings that have withstood the test of time are all here for the culturally curious, not to mention the nightly Nile, the vast desert and the lush delta.


Abu Simbel Egypt

Discover the mysteries of Abu Simbel at the Temple of Ramses II


Whenever I think of travel, there is always one quote that inspires me, written by the inimitable Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” In essence, live life for the now, get out and ensure you discover your small part of our extraordinary world in 2020 and beyond. You won’t regret it.


September. How is it possible that I am already in the midst of my annual Q3 multi-continent tour, each stop feeling too short, knowing that before I know it, I will again be into the 100-day countdown to another year’s end? Another year is passing by in the blink of an eye.

So too, dare I say, has passed too long a period of my own silence in my personal writing. Mid-year momentum has meant that the bustle of business strategy and management has silenced other aspects of my valued responsibility to guide a great brand and exceptional business.

And yet timelessly, as I now travel the world, it is both interesting and stimulating to be asked sincere, pointed questions around the future of tourism. Much of it is focused on the perception of ‘over-tourism’ – a term that has become the cringe of our great sector. Many, far too many, make the accusation and stop there, failing to think of the implication of slowing, or even stopping, an industry on which millions of people rely for their lives and livelihoods.

My belief is simple: all of us in the industry have a part to play. Through thoughtful, respectful, strategic management of tourism industry growth and activation, we can ensure that we support all destinations economically, socially, culturally and environmentally. In doing so, we need to move beyond peak season, making travel a 365, inclusive, truly responsive and responsible enterprise for locals, visiting and supporting the less-visited areas in these trending destinations.

Iraq Al Amir

Handmade products being made at the Iraq Al Amir Women Cooperative Society, which is located 35km outside of Amman.

But while some destinations are struggling to handle the side effects of over-tourism, in August, my travels took me and many from my Trafalgar family to a place experiencing reborn tourism – the quest to break through under-tourism. It is a place I had not visited since 1997, a place that has re-energised my mind and heart because of its bold, unwavering ambition to become more than anyone ever thought possible: Northern Ireland.

This visit struck a chord, illuminating the duality of travel – how so many destinations aren’t getting enough tourism while others complain they are getting too much. We as travelers and industry leaders, need to ensure we are getting tourism right.

John McGrillen, CEO of Tourism Northern Ireland, laid out for me his vision for doubling tourism by 2030, a goal that should be easily achieved as the world rediscovers this currently overlooked yet deeply inspiring destination. It is in this magnificent part of the world that the future will now be shaped through hope, through unity, and through tourism, because its people refuse to be defined by its recent past.

Northern Ireland

TTC’s CEO Brett Tollman, Belfast’s Lord Mayor, and Tourism Northern Ireland’s enigmatic CEO John McGrillen and myself in Belfast, August 2019.

TTC’s CEO Brett Tollman, Belfast’s Lord Mayor, and Tourism Northern Ireland’s enigmatic CEO John McGrillen and myself in Belfast, August 2019.And so, I too have joined the chorus. Under-tourism: our call to action to spread the powerful benefit travel provides to the places like Northern Ireland. In doing so, not only does it address the looming risks of over-tourism south of the soft border, it also opens up the opportunity to discover new unexplored corners of the Emerald Isle, reminding us to do similarly in other destinations across the world. It re-energizes the power of travel that we know to be true: building relationships with people, places, culture, and communities we visit. All this with the added benefit of being able to explore something new and totally raw, gained simply by taking the proverbial road less traveled.

There are endless, undersubscribed places that you can discover for your next adventure. Our world has a multitude of tourism’s unsung heroes that are waiting to be revealed, waiting to be discovered.

So, to help you out, in 2020, with the assistance of the Trafalgar Tribe, here are an additional nine “alternative” destinations that we believe you should consider adding to your beyond Northern Ireland travel wish list:

Georgia A jewel of the Black Sea region, Georgia is a destination for those who love preciously protected ways of living. A natural and cultural sanctuary with an 8000-year natural wine-making heritage, this crossroads of culture is both rugged and unexplored and extends a warm, heart-felt welcome to visitors.

Sossusvlei, Namibia – Few places in the world are as breathtaking as the continuously changing canvases of colour of Sossusvlei. The Namib desert’s towering drifts of history represent centuries of winds blowing over this majestic landscape. To see the sunrise over its endless dunes, to feel the colours come to life, is to observe the power of Mother Nature waking on a soul-stirring morning.

Balkans beyond Croatia – Look beyond that which has already been discovered, journey further than the beauty of Croatia that has lured your heart to this beguiling part of Europe. Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia, Kosovo – the region will inspire you to venture deeper into one of the most enchanting locations to discover the exquisite gastronomy, fairytale architecture and soothing landscapes.

Cartagena, Colombia – Think soft colour, soft texture, soft sea breezes and soft-hearted people. The beauty of this pastel-hued port city is not only its innate richness of history and tradition, it is its vibrant, vivacious spirit of the future. Central to this? The fact that Cartagena, and Colombia as a whole, has risen from a history once defined by conflict to a future shaped by hope. This gives residents a heightened level of appreciation of all that they have, their hearts open to visitors to share in their blessings.

Bogota Colombia

Colombia, one of our brand-new destinations, waiting to be rediscovered in 2020 and beyond.

Porto, Portugal – A port city, Porto proudly invites travelers to explore northwest Portugal’s home of port wine. With its cobbled streets, rustic merchant shops and cafes, quaint traditionally designed homes and gilded churches, it is clear why and how this medieval-inspired town decorated in glistening, ornate carvings were such a magnet for European explorers of centuries past.

Jaisalmer, India – A magnificent fort city, Jaisalmer sits in the heart of the Thar Desert. The vibe and bustle of its historic role as a medieval trading center is still felt when walking its sandstone alleyways busy with artisans of semiprecious stones, textiles, leather and local cuisine. Also called the “Golden City”, Jaisalmer is, without question, one of the finest cultural adventures any traveller can undertake.

Albania – Here, where Adriatic and Ionian coastlines meet, this crossroads of history, culture and cuisine offers foodies and folklore-lovers a feast of discovery. Museums, castles, mosques and a myriad of frescoes reflect the fusion of its Italian, Greek and Turkish neighbours that once passed through this idyllic boutique destination.

Galway, Ireland – An explorer’s paradise, rural Galway offers barren fields, a rugged coastline and beautiful sunsets all perfect for someone who loves nature. No question about it, this is a place that has for centuries been a muse for poets and storytellers, a landscape lived on by people who take pride in preserving their customs and unique character, charming you from the moment you hear their thick, musically-accented ‘dia dhuit’ (hello).

Navajo Nation, USA – This ancient Native American homeland, steeped in spiritual significance, is also a hiker’s delight. To join our Navajo guides and learn about their incredibly rich history and culture in one of the most dramatically beautiful areas of the USA is an experience that will resonate in your heart forever. This is a place that will fill your eyes, mind and wanderlust spirit with more than your memory bank can store, a place where the stars shine brighter far from the city lights.

I, you, we all owe it to ourselves to continue to play our part in shaping the world around us, making this great industry a continuing source of prosperity, understanding and unity. For me, the urgency of travel is not about rushing to see places before they go away, it’s more about visiting them now, with care and purpose so we ensure they’re around to be enjoyed for generations to come.

And so, as you venture out, many of you heading to unknown cities beyond the must-see lists, here’s my advice: Let’s do better this time. We all have the ability, in fact the responsibility, to travel with purpose. When we meet new people, we should honour their home as we do our own, shopping local and paying a fair price, leaving places better than we found them, taking time to learn from them, broadening our own horizons.

Powered by TTC’s TreadRight Foundation, as part of our JoinTrafalgar responsible travel initiative, on 27 September to mark World Tourism Day, we signed the Make Travel Matter Pledge to cement our commitment to having a positive impact in the places we visit. I invite you to join us and sign this pledge, the first step in making meaningful change and enabling the true (positive) power of tourism to reach those that need it most.

And in doing so, we carry home our priceless stories that encourage other travellers to do the same, and thereby ensuring that together we #MAKETRAVELMATTER.



It’s that time of year for so many (thankfully and appreciatively): their holidays are now booked, their bags are packed, and excitement for the journey of discovery during the 2019 summer season is well and truly underway. But what I cherish is the fact that as I meet travellers, their thoughts are also excitedly turning to their 2020 travel plans.

I love the fact that the annual traveller already knows that the time is now to start making next year’s dream holiday a reality and get a jump on next years’ travel season.

These are the trend setters. And so often, they give us within the travel industry ideas for where to go next. So, with remarkable travel deals on 2020 trips already there for the taking, I took a moment to stop and look at the five top travel tips that I believe will dominate in the year to come and further enthuse those already considering next year’s travel.

 Tip 1: Make Your Travels Matter


As I’ve spoken about many times, sustainability in the travel industry has become more than just a passing fad, it is now an industry must, and we must join together to ensure the joy of travel remains for generations to come. More and more travellers today are actively choosing companies that incorporate sustainable practices, speaking to their core values and, most importantly, those that the world is crying out for.  However, sadly, the rise of “sustainability” and “eco-tourism” as trending buzz words has led to a wave of green-washing, and the prefix “eco” is being increasingly overused.

It’s important that people continue to ask the right questions to ensure they make the right choices, with the right brands. It’s important to opt for a company that is incorporating sustainability into its core business model, not just as an afterthought. Choose those who operate holistically, not just hanging their hats on one ‘thing’, but making a tangible, measurable impact across the three pillars of sustainability – Economic, Socio-Cultural and Environmental. Each trip you to take has an impact on the places you visit in some way; what we need to reflect on is the fact that how you travel will decide if that impact is positive or negative. That’s why it is so important to select companies taking direct action in regard to sustainability and that walk the talk when it comes to doing good in the places they visit.


At Trafalgar, we take a forward-thinking approach to how we can incorporate the three pillars of sustainability into everything we do. We’re not trying to change the world, we’re just doing what we can, where we can, to make it a better place. It’s as simple as that. Through our JoinTrafalgar programme powered by the decade old TreadRight Foundation, we aim to do our part to make travel matter by making a difference to the people, places, wildlife and planet on our trips across the globe. If you’re looking for inspiration, earlier this year we also put together some helpful tips on ways to make your travel more meaningful. If we all do our part, we can make an impact. The more of us that work together, the bigger that impact will be.

Tip 2: Let Your Taste Buds Be Your Guide


We’re seeing a move away from Michelin-starred (in fact the higher the stars, the greater the deterrent for me), ‘social media worthy’ haute cuisine to a craving for cuisine that is more authentic and grassroots. Beyond its culinary merits, travellers are looking at food as a way to connect to the cultures they visit, the stories behind the meals, without the traditional fanfare that was once associated with a ‘good’ dining experience. More and more, we are realising that the way to understand a region’s unique cultural nuances is through the universal language of food; with each local delicacy having its own story to tell.


Way back in 2009, Trafalgar realised that the best way to interact with the local community is in the setting where they are most comfortable: in their homes, at their dinner tables. Thus, our Be My Guest was born. We had no idea that a decade later, it would be one of our most popular trip highlights and now one of the biggest trends in travel.

So have some fun, and check out some of our fantastic Be My Guest experiences and how your visits help make a difference in the lives of our passionate hosts.

Tip 3: Get Involved in the Action


With Pinterest, Instagram and a never-ending flood of blogs popping up on our social media newsfeeds, you’ve seen, watched and read about just about every destination in every corner of the earth. So, when it comes time to hit the road, seeing the world just isn’t enough, travellers want to get amongst it and really experience it.

People are lacing up their hiking boots, swapping stilettos for sneakers and taking themselves, literally, off the beaten path to get out and explore the world. And, the trend is tending towards inclusion rather than exclusion, with hikes and excursions aimed at those with even a moderate level of fitness popping up in a way that we haven’t previously experienced in the wider travel community. The motivation behind this trend isn’t pushing your physical limits but pushing the boundaries of a typical vacation to explore the cultural and natural wonders that lie further afield, on foot.


We are excited to announce two amazing, one-of-a-kind activities that let our guests hike across indigenous lands – including the red rock plains of the American Southwest and the untamed wilderness of Tasmania – to learn about these ancient cultures with indigenous Local Guides, as they see the history of these remarkable civilizations come to life all around them.

Tip 4: Family-Bonding Through Travel


Family and multi-generational travel continue to grow in popularity, but where traditional all-inclusive packages including separate activities for adults and children used to be the go-to option, we’re seeing a much-welcomed shift to holidays that let families experience the magic of a destination together. Our busy lives mean that we have less and less time to spend together as a family, without parents busy answering emails and children glued to their phones and tablets, often simultaneously. In response, people are now using their family holidays as a chance to spend real quality time together, away from the stresses and pressures of everyday life. They are choosing activities that the family can do together, from the children to the grandparents.

But these trips go beyond family-bonding, they serve as valuable educational moments for the children, opening their eyes to new cultures, languages, food. This form of travel takes history out of the text books and makes it real, allowing them to interact with it and begin to truly understand the important role that historical events have played in shaping the world we live in today. But most importantly, it’s fun, for everyone.


From castles to leprechauns, gladiators to cowboys, we’ve created a selection of Family Holidays that bring a child’s imagination to life as they explore the world and pique their budding wanderlust.

Tip 5: Make travel about connections


Too often, when planning a holiday, we have a tendency to focus excessively on what we “should” see, what items we need to tick off our bucket lists. While major attractions are a definite must during any trip, when we shift our focus from seeing to experiencing, that’s when I find the true magic of a destination is revealed.

The first step to truly connecting with a place is to get away from the crowds — dip into the small alleyways, get outside the city limits, explore the local sights that aren’t listed in your guidebook. And, it’s impossible to understand the culture or even history of a town, city or region without getting to know the people who shape its cultural legacy. It’s in these hidden gems that we find the essence of a destination. So, to connect, you have to stop looking through your camera and start seeing each new place through a local lens.


The question then is, how do you find these gems if they’re hidden? Even if you can find the locations that lie off the tourist trail, how do you get there? How can you get access to the people behind the scenes, the store owners, the farmers, the everyday people that are the backbone of the societies you visit?

We at Trafalgar believe that travel is about connections, the connections that bring a destination to life, the experiences that permanently etch themselves in your heart and memories. All our itineraries are built around taking our guests into the local communities to meet the people that call these wonderful places home, to learn their culture and traditions through their stories in their own words, to hear the music, taste the homemade dishes, participate in the rituals that are at the core of their daily life.


Forgive me for the direct promotion, but as I wrote this and then thought about it further, it struck me, if you want to hop on the hottest upcoming travel trends, travel with Trafalgar in 2020. Our team has done an extraordinary job ensuring that we connect you to the essence of each place you choose to visit in a way that lets you experience it without a worry in the world, enabling you to really be in the moment. And of course, if its anywhere in Europe, the time is now to get a head start and book your 2020 European holiday, at 2019 prices.

So, let your travel spirit rise and Bon Voyage.


Notre Dame 1

The news alerts began abundantly, Notre Dame was ablaze. My initial reaction to the news was one of shock and then grief of what appeared to be the loss of an international treasure. My mind immediately returned to my first trip to Paris, in my early teens and how vividly I recalled gazing with awe at Notre Dame’s rose windows as it created a kaleidoscope of colours dancing across the cold stone walls.

Now, writing this just over a week after the first awareness, I find my sense of irredeemable loss replaced with a feeling of hope. Firstly, in reading how human chains were formed to rescue artefacts from the fire. And then, even before the last flames were extinguished, the immediacy of a shift to restoration followed by the generosity of others; a symbol of the goodness of humanity. The feeling bolstered by seeing the country and world come together to rebuild this precious artefact and symbol of its historical legacy.

I feel hope knowing that the gallant efforts of the firefighters led to much of the cathedral’s structure being left intact and many of the most valuable religious and artistic relics being spared. This means to me, that the Cathedral was not simply a symbol or a building in France but was part of all of our lives.

Notre Dame was one of those iconic sights that lives with you forever, the first thing on my must-see list when I visit Paris. It was an icon of the city and a vital emblem for all of France. For 850 years, it inspired in visitors around the world the same sense of humbled awe that it inspired me ever since that first visit when I was a boy. Witnessing such sights is a powerful reminder of why we travel.

For almost 900 years, Notre Dame bared witness as France faced the destruction of the French Revolution and many other events that marked the country’s, at times, tumultuous history. It’s been repeatedly scarred and bared witness as the city overcame obstacles, destruction and turmoil. But each time, it has picked up the pieces and rebuild itself, better than ever. And so it will be once more.

So, now as I look at the latest pictures of what is left of this cherished landmark, in the rubble, in the ashes, I see hope. And this is what I want both Trafalgar guests and all visitors to see when they make their next trip to the City of Lights. Instead of thinking of a missed opportunity to see the Cathedral of Notre Dame as it was, I want them to see the unique gift they have been given to see Notre Dame as it will be, a symbol of resilience and unity. I want to them feel the energy emitted throughout the city as the building is brought back to life stone by stone. I want them to look at the sight, smile, and feel the same sense of hopefulness that I feel.

Notre Dame 2



In 1970, the idea was born: a global initiative that devotes a day, April 22nd, each year to raising public awareness around the active role each of us can play in protecting and preserving the world we live in. EARTH DAY.

Fortunately, the volume of the call-to-action is getting louder and louder, and today, Earth Day mobilises over 190 countries around the world over to take action against the growing threat of Climate Change.

Irrespective of the naysayers, as I travel the world, there is no doubt that the ravages of Climate Change are become increasingly unmistakable. Living in Switzerland, I see the glaciers in the Alps literally shrinking before me; we all experience the heat waves caused by the rising of the planet’s average surface temperature; and according to the World Meteorological Organization, the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, with the top four in the past four years. One sees the greater frequency of extreme weather events; rising sea levels, floods, deterioration of the reefs through ocean acidification, and arctic ice sheet erosion.

This is startling, and unless rapidly addressed, its influence on both safety as well as the stability of the global economy and our social wellbeing will have a direct impact on how we live and evolve into a worldwide crisis.

Despite Earth Day 2016 marking the historic signing of the UNFCC’s ‘Paris Agreement’, which aligns 120 nations around “a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so”, the need to do more, at all levels – government, business, citizenry – is required, now.

Earth Day is now celebrated by more than a billion people and is the largest secular observance in the world. It has become a day of action to stimulate changes in human behavior, hopefully foster policy changes in turn. But, while this one day has been successful in raising awareness, the focus needs to shift from inspirational words to taking action, every day of the year. I subscribe to the philosophy of Anne Marie Bonneau, Zero Waste Chef: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” Each of us doing our share can make a world of difference.

Therefore, for my part, my goal is simple. First, I want to raise the bar for awareness. Second, I want to encourage individual action: not just acknowledging the problem and paying lip service but actually making thoughts meaningful and turning words into actions. Finally, I believe we should focus on those who are believers and assist in translating their desire into action. And then through their actions, they will inspire others to do their part too.

In 2019, as a key undertaking for the business as well as in my personal life, I have increased focus on the elimination of the use of single-use plastics (SUP). As we continuously see, the SUP problem is considerable and escalating – beaches and open waters are being overrun with plastics, sea birds and mammals dying from ingesting, becoming impaled on or trapped in plastic waste. In fact, on the very day I began writing this blog, I read of another tragically painful story of a whale washing up on the beaches, this time in Italy, her life lost due to the ingestion of 48 pounds of plastics. This beautiful creature could no longer carry the burden of our wasteful lifestyle.

Trafalgar’s focus on helping reduce SUPs has been guided by a vision to try and make an individual difference. I give full credit to my cousin and The Travel Corporation (TTC) CEO, Brett, for opening my eyes a decade ago. In 2009, he convinced our family that we needed to ensure our company’s living legacy – our love for travel – could be passed on to future generations so they too could experience the gift of travel. We needed to ensure that the literally millions of guests we take around the world through TTC’s portfolio of brands ( play their part in making travel matter.

And so, 10 years ago, the TREADRIGHT FOUNDATION (, our not-for-profit foundation, was created. Its name was carefully chosen to emphasize that as we journey out into our increasingly fragile world, we must take care to do it the right way. Today, over 50 projects later, we know we can’t do it all, but we can do our best. Our focus is on having a positive impact on the people and communities we visit, helping them to preserve their cultural heritage, working with them to protect their natural environments, and empowering them to personally reap the benefits from travellers visiting the places they call ‘home’.

It was through this vision that JoinTrafalgar was created, powered by TreadRight’s philosophy and expertise, with the goal to assist in using use the positive power of travel to make a difference for a sustainable future. And, we now have over 80 experiences on our itineraries, each making a direct difference to the people and places we visit, across all seven continents.

Brett believed in the mission of Earth Day, acknowledging the dangerous path the world was headed on, and he prompted us to see where we were going and where we could end up. With our eyes opened, reducing any negative environmental or social impact from our business, and in our personal lives, became not just a nice-to-have, but the core of much of what we do.

It is clear that SUP, our greatest, most used, most durable convenience is having a debilitating effect on the globe. I was recently with Celine Cousteau, a TreadRight ambassador, who shared with me that there are an estimated eight million tonnes of plastic – the equivalent of 630 billion single-use plastic water bottles – finding their way into our oceans every year. On this trajectory, by 2050, there would be more plastic in the oceans than fish.  Last year, whilst in Auckland, I met Ryley Webster of Sustainable Coastlines and heard one of the disquieting impacts of plastics. When ingested, they cause fish to release excess estrogen which, in regions with a high seafood diet, causes young girls to enter puberty prematurely and boys to develop breasts.  These facts are too alarming to ignore, and it was time to put our commitment to action.

On World Environment Day 2018, TTC and all of our 29 brands committed to the elimination of all avoidable SUP in our operations by 2022. We implemented an immediate ban of more than 60 types of single-use plastic items such as straws, coffee stirrers, water bottles, plastic bags, and cutlery in our 30-plus offices around the world.

And, already, the result has been encouraging. It was wonderful to see Mae Cheah, who directs our Asian sales team, give our Singaporean as well as Malaysian agent partners a gift of a reusable set of biodegradable crockery and chopstick (which I use here in Geneva). In my South Pacific travels, the Australian and New Zealand Tribe put me to work alongside them for a beach clean-up, which we’ve also done around Lake Geneva. Nowhere is immune from this need. If you haven’t participated in a clean-up of your local area, do so. Volunteer, because you will be surprised at how neglected many of these places are.

But we are not stopping there – we continue to push further.

GT Central Park clean copyright Michael Marmora

Central Park – Photo by: Michael Marmora

For Trafalgar’s 2019 operating year, the sale of SUP bottles has been eliminated across Europe, USA and Asia trips, and we will be encouraging guests to bring or buy their own reusable water bottles. We will also disclose where potable water is available on all trips. And last month during our European Travel Director meeting in Seville, I was shown an app, TAP, which allows you to find the closest place to refill your water bottle so one never has to buy bottled water again.

Even before taking these actions, we had already decided to eliminate SUP name badges and changed to a multi usage luggage tag. And on trip tote bags, we stopped using recycled-plastic tote bags and chose to order cotton canvas bags instead. We also dropped our wallet order by 70% thanks to our guests selecting paper-free documentation. In 2018, for each of the 74% of our guests who selected paper-free documents, we planted a tree with our partner One Tree Planted in Northern California or Tanzania. By the end of the year, we had planted over 150 acres of trees. And for those who still prefer hard copy documents, their trip wallets are now cotton canvas over recycled plastics.

With this momentum, we have prepared a document to enable our contractors and operational personnel to begin the process of identifying and working with suppliers who will join us on the elimination of SUP in their area of our trips. It is still early days, but the response has been extremely encouraging. There is no turning back – the future is right in front of us.

Which is why, even with all of these waves of positive change, our commitment continues. In New Zealand, Trafalgar is the first corporate partner to sign up to an initiative with Sustainable Coastlines ( which will eventually see 110+ monitoring sites around the country gathering data using the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) methodology. The data will be publicly available for use by policy makers, environmental lobby groups and, very importantly, to educate the public about the state of our shores, providing solutions for improvement in each unique bio region of our coastlines. In addition, seven of Trafalgar’s Tribe have undergone training to implement Sustainable Coastlines’ new citizen science project (The Litter Project) which will see them lead groups of colleagues and industry partners to collect beach litter data at Little Shoal Bay four times per year for the next three years.

Change comes in many forms, I was recently inspired by a young lady, Lauren Smith with whom I worked for a number of years. She will soon be launching to offer tips, resources and a carefully-curated collection of eco-friendly, low-waste and made-from-recycled goods for responsible North American travelers.

Our journey is underway, but ultimately, the belief that our planet is our responsibility – and the degree to which that responsibility is taken – is a personal one.

On this Earth Day, I would like to sincerely commend and applaud so many of my fellow TTC team members on the strides we have made, together and within our own brand environments as well as ffriends and associates in our industry, who share our vision. I believe strongly that, cumulatively, our actions will start to have an impact. And we can then begin to pressure our respective governments to do the right thing. But it needs to start with us, one by one by billions. I hope you join us on this journey of making a difference, making travel matter.

After all, Celine’s grandfather Jacques Cousteau once said: “The happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist. For man it is to know that and to wonder at it.”

April 2


We need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored.  I recently came across this quote from Sheryl Sandberg and it really struck a chord as I began to think about the now-imminent International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8. It resonated with me for many reasons, in both my personal and professional life, particularly when I related it to this year’s theme for IWD #BalanceforBetter

Saying I am grateful for the exceptional women that inhabit and generate balance in my world, would be a gross understatement. Hoping I do the  same for them is a perennial aspiration. The females leading the charge in my universe are my wife Toni and her mother Bea. With their  remarkable combination of strength, courage, vision, passion and compassion, to me they are a daily example of what balance in life represents. Collectively, they have inspired several generations of both females and males, always exuding an air of effortless capability and balance in all that they do.

Trafalgar IWD Graphic-01

To mark IWD last year, I saluted the ladies of the Trafalgar Tribe and recognised the vital role they played in the success of Trafalgar, Costsaver and Brendan. Their part in changing the dynamic of these brands has undoubtedly led to the favourable position we now find ourselves in in the ever-evolving world of travel. Across our business, I remain focused on ensuring that true gender equality becomes a reality and is forever integral to the DNA of our brand. In my view and in my business, female empowerment and advancement are wholly necessary. Equality is an action we all live and breathe within our tribe. It’s never about only this one day, but a consistent recognition throughout the entire year that enables the women in our tribe to understand that they are appreciated for everything that they do. Every single day.

In the past year we have committed to an even greater advancement of women in our business; in reviewing our female ratio,  it fills me with immense pride to see our sustained and steady growth in gender equality. In three of our seven regions we now have 100% female leadership: The Americas, Asia and South Africa, with Europe & Britain and Canada coming in closely behind with 90% and 88% respectively. This represents +11.5% in the Americas, +24% in Canada compared to same time in 2018. Overall in our teams we have bettered our balance, with the brand comprising 87% females in New Zealand, 85% South Africa, 84% Australia and 81% in Asia.

As we start to follow #BalanceforBetter and continue our commitment, I will personally be driving the change and ensure we are nominating our female colleagues for yet more opportunities. Far more importantly though, how do we go beyond the hashtags? Beyond this one day in 365 where we collectively commemorate women worldwide? How do we push past the sometimes obstructive boundaries of men vs women?

Firstly, we all have a critical part to play – every day, every week, every month and every year. And everywhere.

Balance drives a better working world. Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. The race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, gender-balanced governments, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth and gender-balanced sports coverage.

Wherever I travel, I find myself engaging with inspirational women, with increasingly more of them playing a prominent role in our business. In 2019, we celebrate the 10th anniversary of a concept that not only changed the Trafalgar brand, but changed the travel industry. Be My Guest (BMG) blazed a trail that satiated the desire for travellers to engage locally and authentically. More than a third of our BMGs in Europe are fronted by female enterprise.   Too many to mention here, I’d like to share just two of our shining stars that have embraced the opportunity to be heard and heeded:

Travelling in Tuscany to meet Giada:

Giada Landi

Image: Giada Landi

As the owner of Villa Il Leccio, a successful agri-turismo enterprise in the Chianti region of Tuscany, Giada Landi seeks inspiration from the strongest woman in her life. “I am inspired by my mother, a great woman who preserved our family’s legacy and lovingly passed down our family traditions from generation to generation”. These traditions are generously shared with Trafalgar guests during each Be My Guest experience that is hosted at Giada’s home, a 19th-century villa that she still lives in today with her own family. Prepared by Giada herself, guests can tuck into an Italian feast made from ingredients grown on the property and wash it all down with locally-produced Chianti. “Working with Trafalgar is a fantastic opportunity to share our beautiful home, its history and the Landi family traditions with people from around the world.”

Further afield there’s a destination and a dynamic group of ladies that found themselves in a situation that made it imperative for them to reshape the conversation (to quote Sheryl) and needed to #BalanceforBetter to sustain their livelihood.

Woman of Demicidere

Image: Woman of Demircidere, Turkey

The small village of Demircidere is home to quite possibly Turkey’s most empowered and liberated women, having elected their first female muhtar (head of village) in 1933. Fast forward eight decades to discover the pine-nut production in the village decimated by an insect infestation. With a rapidly diminishing economy, the community came together. Rapidly. Driven by the women, with Trafalgar’s support, they opened up their homes to welcome guests from around the globe the chance to break bread with them, quite literally. In partaking in this particularly humbling Be My Guest, Trafalgar travellers are benefitting the local community and enabling the production of jam, raisins and wine, as well as fostering a positive culture of equality for Turkish women. The ladies wear dresses with a kaleidoscope of colourful sequins, believing shiny things deflect negative energy.

As we all join the conversation and strike a social media pose to advocate #BalanceforBetter this International Women’s day, let’s all channel the vibes of empowerment, equality and unity: to quote Shery Sandberg once more: “In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” 


Image: Gavin striking the balance pose in Verbier 


Lavendar 2.jpg

Red alert! No sooner do the holiday decorations and fir trees disappear, then the sea of hearts arrive. The ubiquitous explosion of crimson signals the imminent onset of the most renowned February day, that of St Valentine.

In February, love is in the air more than any other time of year. And there’s no escaping it. When I see the flutter of red hearts take over our daily lives, I cringe. I cringe not because I am a skeptic of the power of love or the Grinch who stole February 14th. It’s entirely the opposite, as I’ve been blessed with great love.

My disdain for the omni-present homage to adoration is the public nature of it – not only is it on show, but all of it is for sale. Everything has a price, including our hearts, it would seem. Why do we need the commercialisation of the occasion to generate a sentiment that feeds the forced pressure to gift to our nearest and dearest. Who deemed it a day for chocolate consumption for no real reason?. And just why do we subscribe to so much style over substance to mark a day in our lives that has no credible not historic connection to romance?

With the long lead-up, comes the quick disappearance of the big day – within 24 hours, roses return to their normal price, restaurants revert to their scheduled menus and greeting cards slashed and all manner of heart-shaped gifts beg to be bought for half-price. Personally, I find it far more palatable and sincere to surprise those I love with thoughtful and heartfelt gestures throughout the year. Never underestimate the true value of excitement over expectation.

Still, for all of my inclination to turn away from the somewhat overwhelming wave of red marketing love, one aspect I wholeheartedly (pun intended) embrace at this time of year is my particular passion: the love of travel. Its significance soars to the forefront of my thoughts more so each February.

I love to travel. It’s as simple as that. I genuinely, truly and deeply love it. Every moment, every mile, every memory makes me who I am. Despite my many attempts to regale friends and acquaintances either face to face or via the written word about it, the Asian Proverb “it’s better to see something once than hear about it a thousand times” always springs to mind. Like the old adage of “a picture paints a thousand words”, for me, there is no better way to experience that picture than to travel and put yourself truly within it.

For me, the adrenaline fires the adventure regardless if I am travelling for business or leisure. Looking up at the departures board in an airport is like looking through a telescope – my mind fills with a sense of wonder, my heart beats in awe. Some places prompt mental images, others are blank slates. All of them send my imagination into overdrive and get me ready to go and ready to connect.

With connection in mind, it brings me to think of the five senses and how alive they are when we see, hear, touch, taste and smell a new place for the first time. The latter is always a standout for me.

It instantly transports me back to moments in time, links me to special places and reignites precious memories

It therefore seemed a perfect partnership when we talked about bringing travel to life with leading French perfumery, Fragonard Parfumeur. Working with the celebrated scents of Southern France, Trafalgar has created the world’s first travel fragrance. ‘La Belle Vie’, in which we celebrate the love affair between our sense of smell and the travel memories that evokes.

Like Trafalgar, Fragonard is also a family-owned brand and a leader in their industry, Fragonard was established in Grasse on the French Riviera in 1926 and has been a partner with Trafalgar for over 40 years. When Agnes Webster, CEO of Fragonard, told me that the parfumier took inspiration from a scented flower once used as a love potion in ancient times, I knew she was sharing not only a special scent but a symbolic labour of love to share our passion for travel. Our hope is that when smelling ‘La Belle Vie’ it will bring travels back to life for our guests – transporting them in their minds back to The Good Life of wherever in the world their happy place is. What’s not to love about travel? And what’s not to love about sharing that most precious privilege in life with those you love.

Needless to say, my true favourite gift for those I love? Travel to a place I know they will adore, giving them the gift of memories for the rest of their lives. So, this February 14, I urge you to give the gift of love and embrace life as Confucius said “Wherever you go, go with all your heart”. I wish you, Happy Traveltines